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Demystifying the Design Process

Tuesday, 21 July 2015   (0 Comments)
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Whether you work in a design-related profession or not, design is an integral part of daily life. Traditionally, it has been associated with the production of tangible objects: computers, buildings, cars, decorative objects. Today, it is seen as a critical tool for the development of systems, strategies, experiences and processes. But how does design happen? We unpack the design process, with the aim of demystifying design thinking.

Global design firm IDEO talks about the three spaces in the design thinking process that lead to innovation: inspiration, ideation and implementation. The UK’s Design Council talks about the four stages inherent in the Double Diamond model: discover, define, develop and deliver. Stanford’s refers to the steps in the design process as empathise, define, ideate, prototype and test.

While the language used is different for each organisation, the principles behind the process are the same. Taking a design-led approach to solving problems starts with identifying what you think the problem is, conducting research to reframe the problem, developing and testing solutions, and implementing the results. Empathy, user-centricity and co-creation are other important elements of the design thinking process that organisations can use to deliver innovative products or services for their customers.

1. Know your audience


The design process typically begins with a need to understand how users currently experience your product, service or organisation. Place yourself in their shoes to gain a deeper insight into what they see, feel and hear when they are using your product or service or dealing with your business. Observing how customers experience your business helps you to identify service blockages, clumsy processes or staff inefficiencies. Only once you see what they see and hear what they hear, will you know that something needs to change.

2. Identify the problem

Once you understand what your customer is experiencing, it becomes easier to identify emerging patterns or particular needs that customers may have. What matters most to them? What are the priorities? With these insights, you’re able to frame the issue in a single simple problem statement. The problem statement is the guide that helps clarify the potential design challenges and, if addressed correctly, will change the customer’s experience from a negative one to a more positive one.

3. Testing, testing…


The development stage allows you to design concepts, develop ideas and test prototypes. This is where design becomes an iterative process. Continually revising and improving the idea allows you to gain more clarity about a possible solution. Prototypes will be shaped by the feedback you receive from customers along the way. There may be many possibilities on the table, but remember that the right idea will only become clear once you’ve had feedback from the most important people: your customers. As IDEO’s David Kelley says, “how quickly you create an initial prototype is directly proportional to how successful a product will be.”

4. Put it out there


With all the insights you’ve gained in the earlier stages; with all the testing and prototyping that has been completed, this is perhaps the most crucial stage. Traditionally, businesses release a final product to the market in the hope that customers will respond by buying it. Design thinking calls for ongoing development as the product reaches users and users provide valuable feedback on how to improve it, based on their experiences.

Start by testing your idea on a small group, giving people the chance to let you know why they think your proposed solution works or not. In the digital world, for example, this may be a select group of users invited to test the beta version of a new app or digital service. Their input at this stage will help you to refine the idea, and finalise it before taking the expensive leap to implementation. And then once you release the ‘real’ version, it’s important to maintain the feedback loop to ensure you are constantly improving.

Have you introduced a design process into your organisation? What was your experience? Tell us by email.


Image Credit: Flickr | Vousnous Design

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